Nishioka Tsutomu on the comfort women (Part 2 of 4)
Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 16, 2012
NISHIOKA Tsutomu, a researcher associated with Tokyo Christian University, has been conducting research into the comfort women for more than 20 years.
Earlier this year he published an article on the subject in the biweekly Sapio magazine. He split it up into four parts on his website. Part One was published yesterday. Here is Part Two.
Eight years after Yoshida’s testimony, on 11 August 1991, the first great uproar over the comfort women began when the Asahi Shimbun published a newspaper article filled with falsehoods. The article was accompanied by a large headline that read, A Korean Comfort Woman Reluctantly Speaks a Half-Century after the War. The lede read:
Korean comfort women were taken to the battlefield during the Japan-China War and the Second World War as the “volunteer corps” and forced to prostitute themselves to Japanese soldiers. We discovered one of them still living in Seoul. The Council for Dealing with the Problem of the South Korean Volunteer Corps began the work of interviewing her.
The mistaken report took up the malevolent claims of Yoshida’s testimony by saying that the women were taken to the front under the name of the “volunteer corps”. Kim Hak-sun, the comfort woman who spoke out, did not say that she was taken to the battlefield as part of the “volunteer corps”. Her mother sold her as a gisaeng for 40 yen because the family was poor. The Asahi Shimbun has yet to correct its mistake to this day.
The article was written by Uemura Takashi, who was married to the daughter of an executive in the group known as the (South Korean) Association for Bereaved Families of the Pacific War victims. They brought suit against the Japanese government seeking compensation. It is difficult to forgive someone who used the pages of the Asahi to write a lie, giving his mother-in-law’s suit more credibility.
When then-Prime Minister Miyazawa Ki’ichi visited South Korea in January 1992, he apologized to President Roh Tae-woo eight times. That year in February, I asked a senior member of the Northeast Asia section of the Foreign Ministry whether the prime minister had apologized because he recognized that the women had been taken forcibly under government authority, or whether he apologized for the damage down by prostitution caused by poverty. I was surprised by the answer I received: We’re going to start investigating that now.
I wrote an article with the above content for the April issue of the Bungei Shunju that year. Right after that article appeared, Prof. Jin Uk-eon, whose field of specialty is modern history, went to Jeju to conduct a survey about Yoshida’s testimony. He discovered the previously mentioned article in the Jeju newspaper and revealed that Yoshida had lied.
An Byeong-jik, a professor emeritus at Seoul University, conducted an academic study of the testimony of the comfort women who had come forward other than Kim Hak-sun. He concluded that it was not possible to verify the claim that they had been forcibly taken under government authority. Starting in January 1992, the Japanese government thoroughly examined official documents. They found that the volunteer corps system and the comfort women were completely separate, and there were no official documents that indicated the women had been forcibly taken under government authority. Thus, the first dispute ended with the determination of the actual facts.
The Japanese government, however, did not present a rebuttal based on the facts. They conducted the cowardly diplomacy of continuing to apologize while putting off the resolution of the problem. This shouldn’t have been an issue to begin with, but it became a serious issue in Japan-Korean relations.
In confidential discussions, the South Korean government asked the Japanese government to recognize coercion. If Japan did so, they suggested, it would end the problem in bilateral relations. Pandering to the South Koreans, the Foreign Ministry bureaucrats and Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono turned their backs on Japan. The bureaucrats employed the sophistry that there was coercion because the women didn’t want to become comfort women. The government issued the Kono Declaration in August 1993 as a representation of the government’s apology.